Daniel Hemric: Daytona 500 ‘Stage is Super Special’

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After competing sporadically in the NASCAR Cup Series in recent years, Daniel Hemric is not taking the opportunity to start the Daytona 500 for granted.

Hemric last competed full-time in the Cup Series in 2019. The journeyman driver then competed for a variety of teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, winning the 2021 title with Joe Gibbs Racing. The Kannapolis, N.C. native was in the rotation in the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2022, including in the Daytona 500.

The 33-year-old has a best finish of 12th in the Cup Series season opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway. That race also marked the debut of the current NASCAR Next Gen Cup car in a points race.

“It’s something that you don’t take lightly,” Hemric said. “Once you’ve experienced this entire week of Daytona 500, it’s not like anything else. And once you experience it once and don’t know if you’ll experience it again, you learn not to take it for granted. Grateful to be here with Kaulig Racing. Excited to be part of ‘The Great American Race’ one more time.”

Although he won the championship in the Xfinity Series, Hemric acknowledged that the ‘lower levels’ of NASCAR competition don’t get the same notoriety as the Cup Series. However, it gave the veteran driver a bigger appreciation of just how special a Daytona 500 start is. The only race Hemric found comparable to the Daytona 500 in its’ meaning is the Coca-Cola 600.

The strive to compete in the Cup Series, the Daytona 500 of any racer is comparable to the goals of kids wanting to play in the NFL, NHL, or at the top level of other sports. 2024 marks the return for Hemric to the Cup Series full-time in the No. 31 Cirkul Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Kaulig.

“Once you have the opportunity to run the Cup level and you’re out and about, away from the racetrack, there’s a certain thing that comes with being a Cup driver,” Hemric explained. “Even if you go on to win the Xfinity championship, a lot of the folks that know racing, they know NASCAR, they know the Cup Series, but when you start talking about lower series, they don’t really follow that part of it. You’re a driver and they ask what do you race, and you say, ‘Xfinity,’ they look at you. When you say, ‘Cup Series,’ it gets their attention.

“It’s no different than a kid playing Pop Warner football and playing in the NFL one day. Just having that stage, that platform. And then this particular weekend — Daytona 500 weekend — there’s nothing else like this. There’s not another race; maybe the Coke 600 for me that even gives you those feelings. This stage is super special.”

That special stage, the Daytona 500, is one that Hemric will get to experience once again on Sunday, February 18. The race is scheduled to be on FOX at 2:30 p.m. ET as well as the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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